01/16/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
IF IT ISN'T ONE BOMBSHELL, IT'S ANOTHER. Last month the U.S. Postal Service withdrew a stamp commemorating the 1945 A-bomb attacks on Japan after the Clinton Administration and the Japanese government complained. Last week it did a little better, unveiling a classy first-class stamp depicting Marilyn Monroe.
The stamp goes on sale—after a Hollywood ceremony—on June 1, which would have been MM's 69th birthday. The service plans to issue 400 million, the second-largest issue of a single commemorative stamp after Elvis, who is still the King at 500 million.
"Marilyn had a warm, smoky quality," says New York City artist Michael Deas, 38, whose rendering of Monroe was picked by the Postal Service over the 18 other portraits, by nine artists, pictured here. "She was sultry and regal all at once."
The Monroe stamp comes after years of lobbying by fans of the star, who died in 1962 at age 36. "Marilyn, Lucille Ball and Louis Armstrong have been the most requested stamps in recent years," says Terry McCaffrey, director of stamp design at the Postal Service. The service, which earned $216 million from commemorative stamp purchases in 1994, plans to issue a Satchmo later this year. Because of a post office rule that says a person appearing on a stamp must have been dead for at least 10 years (except Presidents, who need only be dead), Lucy fans will have to wait until 1999.
Meanwhile, Deas says, "It's nice to do a stamp; millions of people will be licking my work."